Area legislators, elected officials, local business representatives and members of the public gathered to hear updates on current topics at the Eggs and Issues Legislative Forum held at Crowder College in Neosho on Friday.

Area legislators, elected officials, local business representatives and members of the public gathered to hear updates on current topics at the Eggs and Issues Legislative Forum held at Crowder College in Neosho on Friday.  
The event was sponsored by the Neosho Area Chamber of Commerce along with Community Bank and Trust and hosted by Crowder College. Area legislators on hand included Missouri state Senator Ron Richards, Missouri state representatives Bill Reiboldt,160th district, Bill Lant, 159th district, Bill White from the 161st district, Charlie Davis from the 162nd, and Mike Kelly from the 127th district.  Newton County presiding commissioner Marilyn Ruestman and commissioners Jim Jack and Allen Bishop were present.  
Mike Franks, Grow Neosho, introduced each speaker to bring those present up to date with current issues and events.
Neosho Mayor Ben Baker announced two upcoming events, the Four States Armed Forces Music Festival this weekend and the annual Celebrate Neosho event on June 24. Baker also presented an update on the unprecedented flooding in Neosho at the end of April.
"I am extremely proud of all our city departments who worked tirelessly during the event," Baker said, listing the Neosho Police Department, Neosho Fire Department, the Newton County Sheriff's Office, Public Works department,  Missouri State Highway Patrol, and water rescue teams.
More than 100  structures suffered major damage during the flooding and Baker said, "We're extremely confident that federal aid will soon be available for our residents and businesses affected by the flood," Baker said.

Newton County Presiding Commissioner, Marilyn Ruestman, updated plans for the new judicial center slated to open later this month on the Neosho square.  Ruestman cited space and security concerns as the reasons behind the move which will relocate all courtrooms from the courthouse. "We were dedicated to preserving downtown and the old courthouse feel," Ruestman said. "We wanted to remain on the Square and provide more security.  The new judicial center will be better for everyone concerned."

Senator Ron Richards provided an update from the Missouri senate.  Lawmakers will be back at the state capitol this week, after the regular session ended earlier in May.  The special session, called by Governor Eric Greitens, addresses an effort to approve special electric rates for steel works facilities and aluminum smelters.  If approved, the measure could make it easier for a new steel plant to locate in Missouri with up to 50 jobs and reopen a now closed aluminum smelter in southeast Missouri.

"We had the most productive session, especially for Republicans, in over a hundred years," Richards said about the regular session. "The quantity of legislation is greater than I have ever seen." He also noted that regulatory reform is upcoming, including worker's compensation reforms.

Franks introduced the state representatives, beginning with Bill Reiboldt.  "It is always a pleasure to be here," Reiboldt said. "It's always great to see such a good crowd."  Reiboldt listed agriculture and transportation as the major issues which need to be addressed.  A transportation task force will be put together this summer and Reiboldt announced he will serve as vice chairman, then as chairman in 2018. He praised Greitens for providing him with the opportunity to talk about both issues with him, stating "Governor Greitens has been very gracious."

"Agriculture is Missouri's number one industry," Reiboldt stated. "As goes agriculture, so goes the state."  Reiboldt is also adamant about the need for transportation funding.  Missouri's roadways, bridges, and infrastructures are in need of attention but Reiboldt puts roads as the top priority.  "I have nothing against sidewalks and bike trails," he said. "But, I think it's important that we put money into roads."

159th District Missouri Representative Bill Lant spoke about the special session that begins this week.  "I hope to make legislation that will be good for the state and especially over many areas of our state," he said, referring to the proposed special electric rates proposed for aluminum smelters and steel-mil facilities.  The same legislation would also allow companies to negotiate longer electric contracts through 2027.  

Lant serves on both the Economic and Workforce Development committees.  Litigation reform is another current issue.  "Everything that has to do with reform, I have to deal with it," Lant said. "I usually deal with eleven or twelve lawyers on any reform issue."

Bill White, representative from the 161st district, spoke about issues including Missouri compliance with the Real ID laws.  Until a bill passed in both the Missouri House and Senate during the past session, Missouri Driver's Licenses did not comply with the federal Real ID law.  On January 22, 2018, any American without an approved license will have to show a passport or other form of ID to board airplanes, visit military installations, nuclear power plants and other government facilities.  White, like many Missouri Republicans, retain concerns about privacy.  "Privacy is very important," White

The recent legislation allows Missouri residents to get an Real ID compliant driver's license, which will enable them to fly without additional documentation.  Those who have privacy concerns will still be able to have a standard driver's license, something White approves.  

In closing, he said he agrees with the governor who has said, "Missouri is open for business again."  The other Missouri state representatives, Kelly and Davis, also presented also provided updates for their specific regions.

Crowder College was represented by Dr. Jennifer Methvin, college president and Crowder Board of Trustees president Andy Wood.  Neosho officials included Mayor Ben Baker and Chief of Police David Kennedy.  Superintendent Dan Decker, assistant superintendent Trish Wilson, and school board member Steve Douglas represented the Neosho School District.  Neosho Chamber of Commerce executive director Lauri Lyerla, events coordinator Ashley Siler, and Blake Hierholzer, Chamber president were also present along with several business people and members of the public.